Martial Arts, Authenticity or how to choose the right school

Sifu Matthias teaching kung fu

At least since the uprising of Bruce Lee and lately Brazilian Jiu Jujutsu or the popularity of MMA people are wondering about which martial arts and martial artists are authentic and which are not. Or even worst which is more effective and which one is the strongest. The authenticity question is not only coming from the lineage a martial artist represents but also how long the style already exists. In a global world where people move more often from city to city or country to country I think it is important to provide your students the support in finding new schools or teachers at their new home.

Even though, this question is not just a common discussion in the martial arts tribe, I think more importantly, it also matters for people who think about starting to learn a martial art and how to choose a school and a teacher. In Traditional martial arts, which I know better, you are not just looking for a coach or teacher. What we call Sifu in Kung Fu or Sensei in Karate is more likely to be a mentor who guides you or offers you guidance in all the difficulties in life. So, it is kind of important to choose well. If we take me as an example: I still have my Sifu, who lives in another country. But he encouraged me to find new things to learn with the right person. 

This said, it is also good to say that of course, it can change from style to style and person to person. Everyone has to first think about why to enter a martial arts school and what outcome is wanted. If you just want to learn how to fight or you like to perform forms/ katas, then it might go along with the essentials. But here a list of things you should be aware of to find authentic traditional martial arts school.

First, a traditional martial arts school has a lineage. If your teacher can’t tell you about his or her master than something is wrong. At Immortal Dragon, we can track back our style almost to Kwan Kung. My Sifu has a graphic lineage where he can trace back to our Grandmaster Ark Yuey Wong, from there you can dig deeper and trace his masters, and so on. Nowadays it can get complicated since a lot of documents were destroyed by the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution, but still kung fu can be traced back to several lineages and masters. Same actually with Karate where it should be easier to find a lineage which starts from a Grandmaster from the Island of Okinawa.

Second, when you get into the school and see the master sitting, and even if it’s a bit superficial, with a big belly, you don’t want to train there. Keep it like this: if a martial arts teacher can’t do the same class better then you and with more power you should think about changing.

Third, check out the other students. How disciplined are they? Is someone using cursed language or even bullying other students? That are things you don’t want to see in a martial arts school. You want to find a place where students support each other and cheer when someone surpass oneself.

All this said, I want to close this article with a more optimistic view. Most of martial artist are legit and want to help and train their students properly. Even though, some think more about money then the development of their students. At the end you have to feel comfortable with the person you train with.